Topic: Beautiful Orthodox Churches
The Church of Our Lady of the Sign is situated in the Arbat district of central Moscow. It is one of the most striking churches in the Moscow region for its combination of ornate 17th century Naryshkin Baroque and 18th century Classicism styles. The church is unique for it spans three lives, three generations, and three different outlooks.
The church was built by Ivan Romanov, who profited from a royal marriage. Ivan's father was the legendary Nikita Romanov, whose sister Anastasia married Ivan the Terrible in 1547. For Anastasia's wedding, Nikita received in addition to the boyar's title, some 8,000 acres of land. The church rose on the land donated by the tsar, within walking distance of the Kremlin.
Ivan Romanov, who had commissioned the church, died childless. His estate passed into the hands of the Naryshkins, relatives of Peter the Great's mother, Natalia. The Naryshkins, anxious to stress their ties to the royal house, rebuilt the old Romanov church in the 1690s, but kept its dedication fo Znamenie, the favourite icon of the Romanovs. When the Counts Sheremetievs acquired the church in the 18th century, they did not change the name nor its exterior appearance. They only altered the interior to suite their Westernized tastes. The Romanov church, built in the Naryshkin Baroque, thus became part of the Sheremetiev's estate. In time, the Sheremetiev's became Russia's richest aristocrats and the builders of famous palaces.
The Church of Our Lady of the Sign has a sweeping wingspan of terraces. It displays a vertical flight of superimposed octagons which create an impression of a circular building as the narrowing octagons sweep upwards. The church also shares a wealth of white stone ornaments applied to red brick walls that typifies the Naryshkin Baroque. The classical interiors of the church is a contribution of the Sheremetiev's, whose lives spanned the transition from Old Muscovy to Imperial Russia.
The recently restored iconostasis of the Church of Our Lady of the Sign
In 1812, the church was destroyed by fire, but later rebuilt, it was reconsecrated on September 21, 1847. In 1929, the church was closed by the Bolsheviks, its refectory destroyed. During the Soviet years it housed a hospital kitchen, a dining room, and various administrative offices. The facade of the church was sporadically restored in the 1950s and 1970s. After the fall of the Soviet Union, the church was returned to the Moscow Patriarchate.
In 2004, exactly 75 years after being closed by the Bolsheviks, the first liturgy was held in the church. In 2007, major restoration of the facade of the church was completed. In 2010, 10 bells were restored and raised to the belfry. Current restoration includes the House of the Clergy. A restoration of the church's original 17th century interiors will require a lot of work and significant financial resources. This includes the reconstruction of the lost Baroque carvings, and gilded iconostasis of the 17th century, and the restoration of icons and frescoes.
© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 04 August, 2013